“Australian Native Waterlilies”, Nymphaea gigantea (Hook.). The typical, gorgeous blue flowers of waterlilies provide a sense of quiet peacefulness to any setting, be it in a garden pond or quiet stream. As a child I always felt there was something quite magical about a dark pond full of waterlilies often fleetingly passed by as the family car crossed a road bridge over a creek or Paperbark wetland along Australia’s eastern coast.
The large delicately curved petals that form these dinner plate sized waterlily blooms (up to 30 cm or 12” in diameter) in white, pink or blue safely perch on tall stems above the dark still waters. They are not as common and hence not as well-known in Australia as the ubiquitous introduced African waterlily (Nymphaea capensis,Thunb.) that is smaller with petals more rigid and angular in appearance. There is also a marked difference in the arrangement and shape of their stamens that also easily identifies these beauties as the indigenous species. The flower of the Australian species opens to reveal a rounded yellow cushion of stamens that gradually opens into a mass of yellow whereas the stamens of the introduced species are more angular with distinctive dark blue tips. Once the flowers are pollinated the petals drop off and what remains of the flowers soon sinks under the water and grows into a large seed bearing capsule that when opened reveals segments packed full of dark red seeds. I could not help but draw it in all its detail but sadly it could not be successfully included in this composition.
Painted from fresh material generously collected for me from a garden pond this work illustrating flowers from three varieties was exhibited at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne in 1998 and published in The Australian Magazine to promote this exhibition. The predominant medium is watercolor and the venation and shine on the lily leaves is achieved by skillfully “lifting out” the paint. The translucency of the large delicate petals, the large green lily leaves turned upwards in places to reveal their red underbelly, the gorgeous bud and those rolling water drops on the foreground leaf are all elements that I enjoyed when creating this piece.
Original image area: 41x 43 cm (16”x17")
Watercolor and color pencil on Daler HP illustration board